In 2014, Mark Wrigley of Alternative Photonics along with Andy King, a Physics and Astronomy research associate at the University of Sheffield, created the PiKon 3D printed telescope. The telescope, which is based on Newton’s reflecting telescope design, uses a Raspberry Pi and the PiCamera module, with the camera mounted directly in front of the mirror.

I’ve always had a curiosity for astronomy, but was never keen enough to invest any money in purchasing the necessary equipment. But when the PiKon project was featured in the news it was something that really captured my imagination. A year later in 2015, the PiKon turned to crowdfunding, giving everyone the opportunity to get their hands on one — be it fully assembled or in a kit with files to 3D print and assemble at home. I wasted no time in reserving my perk and was eager to start my build.

My kit arrived in early 2016 and I promptly printed my parts and assembled it. To operate the telescope you use a Raspberry Pi, so all of your interactions with the telescope are via the Pi command line interface. This requires you to have access to a TV or monitor and a keyboard, as well as a power source for the Pi and the monitor. This is not a problem if you are operating your PiKon indoors through a window, or even if you are out in your back garden, but what if you want to take your PiKon on a field trip to a remote location?

Resulting image captured with the telescope

Resulting image captured with the telescope

To solve this problem I set about designing and making a small, lightweight, and compact all-in-one unit that not only provides power to the Pi, but also includes a display, input controls, and a user friendly interface. The result is the TED-VDU, it incorporates the following features:

• 3D printed enclosure
• 2.8″ Resistive touchscreen TFT display
• 5200mAh four cell lithium-ion rechargeable battery (provides over 5 hours runtime per charge)
• A single cable to link the VDU to the PiKon (15-way HD15 cable)
• Optional 4x programmable (GPIO) buttons
• Optional LED lights
• Based on the Cam.py point-and-shoot digital camera user interface


While I designed this for the purpose of adding simple functionality and a friendly UI to my PiKon telescope, the TED-VDU can be used for any Raspberry Pi project that would benefit from an external touchscreen display and battery power pack.

You can find a step-by-step tutorial on how to create your own in this Instructable. To see more of my work, check out my site, Thirdearthdesign.com.